Kei Kamara #23 for Sporting Kansas City is one of the reasons why SKC is the top of my rankings for both the East and overall rankings. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
Well it was a light weekend of MLS action, but it is clear that at the top of both East and West that one team is standing above early in the year (yes it is still very early in the year). So one is left wondering why the national media (ESPN/2 and NBC/NBC Sports), who clearly care more about matches in big market cities aren't jumping through hoops to broadcast what is perhaps the biggest, most anticipated match of the early MLS season as Real Salt Lake will head to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park to take on Sporting KC. Yup people will be much more excited about watching Columbus 2-2-0 at Philly 0-3-1 on Saturday, no really they will.
OK so let's take a look at the Eastern Conference:
1. Sporting Kansas City (5-0-0) - A 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy on Saturday was enough to give SKC the best start in MLS since the league left the shootout era. The story isn't their incredible quality of offensive players, no for me the lead story on Sporting is that in 5 matches they have allowed just a single goal, that is impressive. Only one team has gotten more than a single shot on goal against them, now that is simply amazing. The match of the week is clearly going to be when Sporting play host to Real Salt Lake on Saturday. A cheap dig against the new MLS master schedule plan, these two team will only meet once this year, a real shame that fans in Salt Lake won't get to see SKC come to Rio Tinto this year.
2. New York Red Bulls 3-2-0) - After a slow start to the season has any team looked more impressive the last 3 weeks than the New York Red Bulls? Now beating up on Columbus isn't something I didn't expect from the Red Bulls, and to be honest I think they will be able to do so to many of the teams in the East this year. It should be a very good test for them on Saturday as they play host to the San Jose Earthquakes? I can't wait to see this match.
The rest of the rankings after the jump:
3. Houston Dynamo (2-1-0) - What does it say about the East that their #3 team is one that hasn't played a match the last couple of weeks? Still early results would say that the Dynamo will be one of the teams to contend with in the East this year, as they may struggle a bit with their first 8 on the road this year. Still with two wins out of 3 road matches, they have equaled their total road wins of 2011. I think their Sunday match at the Chicago Fire should be a fun one to watch as both sides want to establish themselves as contenders in the East.
4. Chicago Fire (1-1-1) - Like with the Dynamo I find it kind of funny that didn't play this last weekend is in the top 4 of the East, but that is how things are shaping up for the conference. I think the Fire have some talent on their roster but so far they are like a lot of teams this year, trying to figure out how to get it all working together. I think their match on Sunday with Houston will tell us a lot about both of these teams.
5. D.C. United (1-2-2) - A 0-0 draw at home with the Seattle Sounders, but DC United are still living a bit off the beating they handed FC Dallas, but with results in their last 3 matches DC are showing that they could do some nice things this year. I am still waiting on their offense to click every match, a lot of talent that could cause problems for some of the top teams in the East. Another big time showdown in the East this weekend DCU will head up to New England and take on the Revolution.
6. Columbus Crew (2-2-0) - Oh I did find some sweet justice in the egg that the Crew laid at New York this weekend, 4-1 seemed about right for that match, and for me I think that when faced with tough teams that the Crew will struggle this year, they still could contend for a playoff spot based on the overall weakness of the East, but this team would be eaten alive if they played in the West. Up next they get to head to Philly and try to keep the Union without a win.
7. New England Revolution (2-3-0) - A tough 1-0 loss at FC Dallas on Friday night slowed a Rev's side that had been looking good, but the questions about how good this team will be are still lingering. A lot of individual talent on the roster, but getting all of it to come together each week on the pitch might still be something they need to work on. They will be looking to get back on the winning track at home against DC United on Saturday, a big win will move them up the table and the power rankings.
8. Montreal Impact (1-4-1) - Each match the Impact look a bit less like an expansion side and more like a team that will be able to compete in MLS, but a lot of that has been individual effort and like a lot of teams that made big changes in the off season they are looking to establish what kind of team they will be. It was fortunate for them that they were able to take advantage of a distracted, weary, and struggling Toronto FC side to pick up their first MLS win on Saturday morning. They will get a bit more of a challenge on Saturday when they head down to Frisco to take on FC Dallas.
9. Philadelphia Union (0-3-1) - A weekend off might be exactly what the Union needed, because their start of the season has not been what anyone expected, as they clearly are looking for a replacement for a number of players who departed this off season. Can their youth movement find their legs on Saturday as they play host to the Columbus Crew, a chance to shine on National TV as they will play at 1:30pm MT on NBC Sports.
10. Toronto FC (0-4-0) - OK now there will be no excuses of distractions, now Toronto FC will need to start living up to their expectations. Not making the playoffs this year would be the death knell for Aron Winter and what he is trying to do, we know they can play better, we saw that in Champions League, now they must start playing that way in MLS matches. It will be interesting on Saturday as they host Chivas USA, who's two wins this year have both come on the road.
So that is how I see the Eastern Conference, 5 weeks into the season the East is still looking considerably weaker than the West if you look at the entire conference. So how does the West stack up this week?
1. Real Salt Lake (5-1-0) - Listen winning 3 matches in 7 days is not an easy task, and having to get a couple of those wins against very good teams is even tougher, so the fact that RSL emerged with 9 points last week is huge as they move forward with the season. Solid efforts by a number of players seeing their first starts of the season, really made for a positive story line, there were some negatives as a couple injuries were picked up. Perhaps at this point of the MLS season no match is as attractive on paper as RSL at Sporting KC, should be a fun one to watch.
2. San Jose Earthquakes (4-1-0) - The Quakes are quietly becoming one of the big success stories of the early MLS season, a win at Seattle, then handing Vancouver their first loss of the season. With or without Steven Lenhart this team has been able to score goals and they have given up just 2 goals so far this season. I picked these guys to make a serious run at the playoffs this year, and so far they haven't disappointed, a huge test for that defense this weekend as the Quakes will head to Red Bull Arena to take on the New York Red Bulls, another huge match this weekend.
3. Colorado Rapids (3-2-0) - Despite the 2-0 loss to RSL on Saturday, the Rapids still have a fairly solid start to the season, while many of us are puzzled why they tried to change tactics on Saturday it was clear when they play their 4-3-3 that this is a dangerous team. It is clear that the team is still missing Pablo Mastroeni but they are a solid team and should compete for a playoff spot again this year. There is a big test for them on Saturday as they will head to Seattle to take on the Sounders in a big Western conference showdown.
4. Seattle Sounders (2-1-1) - The Sounders made some changes to their lineup to deal with some injuries and the result was a 0-0 draw at DC United, clearly the Sounders miss Mauro Rosales and they need Eddie Johnson or someone to step up and help their offensive efforts, because I don't think David Estrada can carry the load by himself. Will they be able to rebound against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday?
5. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-2) - Well was last week a fluke when the Whitecaps got beat 3-1 at San Jose? or was the 4 results they had going into that match, remember the 4 teams they faced have a total of 4 wins between them.I know a lot of people were impressed by their defense, and to be honest the fact that they didn't give up a goal in their first 4 matches, but that came to an end on Saturday. Now the Whitecaps get the weekend off before they will play host to Sporting KC next Wednesday.
6. FC Dallas (2-2-1) - After being embarrassed at DC United a couple weeks ago, FC Dallas rebounded with a more consistent effort in their 1-0 win over New England on Friday night, they didn't look good but they got the result. Last year they found a way to put together a very solid season without David Ferreira, and they will need to do well with him being gone again. They should be able to help their own cause if they can put together a solid effort against the Montreal Impact on Saturday.
7. Los Angeles Galaxy (1-3-0) - It is just 4 matches into the season, far too early to write off the LA Galaxy but one can't help but notice the issues on and off the field that have seen a slow start for the defending MLS Cup champs. I have no doubt that they have some big names with talent but depth is something they are having to struggle with early this year. It is clear that teams aren't afraid of the Galaxy this year, and they know that the Galaxy can be beat, LA will get a chance to get back to their winning ways when they play host to the Portland Timbers on Saturday night.
8. Chivas USA (2-3-0) - You would think a team would be excited about picking up wins in their first two road matches, but for Chivas USA that has been tempered by the fact that they are 0-3-0 at home. Chivas has been solid on defense, only giving up 4 goals so far this year, but their offense is still questionable as they have just 3 goals in their first 5 matches. Another road match is in front of them as they will head to BMO field to take on struggling Toronto FC on Saturday.
9. Portland Timbers (1-3-1) - It is hard to put a Timber's team with as much talent as they have at the bottom of the power rankings, but their recent struggles leave me no choice. If they don't find a way to get their act together on the pitch, all that individual talent may go to waste. I think they need to find a way to move Jack Jewsbury back into a more offensive minded role. They head to the Home Depot Center to take on the LA Galaxy on Saturday, it should be interesting to see what team steps up.
So there you go, all my rankings broken down by conferences, and here for those of you who wondered how I would rank all the teams together is my overall MLS power ranking:
- Sporting Kansas City
- Real Salt Lake
- San Jose Earthquakes
- New York Red Bulls
- Colorado Rapids
- Seattle Sounders
- Houston Dynamo
- Vancouver Whitecaps
- FC Dallas
- Chicago Fire
- LA Galaxy
- DC United
- Columbus Crew
- New England Revolution
- Chivas USA
- Portland Timbers
- Montreal Impact
- Philadelphia Union
- Toronto FC